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  • EU unveils new cooperation projects in training, cyber operations, naval warfare

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Naval, C4ISR, Sécurité

    EU unveils new cooperation projects in training, cyber operations, naval warfare

    By: Martin Banks BRUSSELS — The European Union has unveiled the latest batch of projects under its flagship defense-cooperation scheme, boosting the areas of training, cyber operations and naval warfare. The decision, announced on Tuesday, brings to 47 the number of projects that are currently in place under the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, initiative. The first two batches were adopted in the spring and fall of 2018. Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, whose country is the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, welcomed the bloc's progress in security and defense cooperation, saying the PESCO schemes are “steps in the right direction.” “We should now concentrate on implementation and reaching results,” he said. The eventual aim of PESCO is to develop and deploy forces together, backed by a multibillion-euro fund for defense research and development Two of the 13 new projects relate to efforts to counter cyber threats. An envisioned EU Cyber Academia and Innovation Hub (EU CAIH), for example, could enhance the creation of an innovative web of knowledge for cyber defense and cybersecurity education and training. The aim of another scheme, the Cyber and Information Domain Coordination Center (CIDCC), is to create a “standing multinational military element” where the participating member states “continuously contribute with national staff but decide sovereignly on case-by-case basis,” reads an EU announcement. The Integrated European Joint Training and simulation Centre (EUROSIM) will integrate tactical training and simulation sites in Europe into a “real-time, networked, connected system.” Another of the new PESCO projects, the European Union Network of Diving Centres (EUNDC), will coordinate and enhance the operation of EU diving centres in order to better support defense missions, while the European Patrol Corvette (EPC) will design and develop a prototype for a new class of military ship. The Maritime Unmanned Anti-Submarine System (MUSAS), meanwhile, aims to develop and deliver an advanced command, control and communications service architecture for anti-submarine warfare. Elsewhere, the Special Operations Forces Medical Training Centre (SMTC) will focus on medical support for special operations and expand the Polish Military Medical Training Centre in Łódź. One other new scheme is the CBRN Defence Training Range (CBRNDTR), which intends to accommodate what the EU calls a “full spectrum of practical training, including live chemical agents training.” The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA), also included in the latest batch, will allow European and NATO air forces to safely operate within EU territories while the Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based TheatER surveillance (TWISTER) scheme seeks to strengthen the ability of Europeans to better detect, track and counter air threats. A scheme called “Materials and Components for Technological EU Competitiveness” (MAC-EU) will develop the European defense technology and industrial base while the EU Collaborative Warfare Capabilities (ECoWAR) initiative hopes to increase the ability of the EU armed forces to face “collectively and efficiently the upcoming threats that are more and more diffuse, rapid, and hard to detect and to neutralize.” Jamie Shea, former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO, said the new projects “are good news for the EU at a time when President Macron is calling for the EU to step up its defense efforts and stand on its own feet. They show that PESCO is gaining traction in EU capitals and nations are buying in to the long overdue need to pool and share capability programs.”

  • Here’s how a CR could hurt America’s nuclear weapons modernization

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre

    Here’s how a CR could hurt America’s nuclear weapons modernization

    By: Aaron Mehta WASHINGTON — A long-term continuing resolution will result in delays for modernizing America's nuclear warheads, while putting at risk an already challenging plan to build plutonium pits needed for the next generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear officials are warning. The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semiautonomous agency under the Department of Energy that handles the manufacturing and maintenance of America's nuclear warheads. Like other government agencies, NNSA would be limited to fiscal 2019 funding limits under a continuing resolution, and it would be unable to start new contracts. The current continuing resolution, or CR, is set to end Nov. 21, but there is little expectation that regular budgeting will then resume. Congress is debating the merits of pushing the CR through December, but analysts are concerned the CR could extend into next year. “We are in a situation right now where we have single-point failures throughout our enterprise,” Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the NNSA administrator, said during a Defense Writers Group breakfast earlier this month. “It's necessary for us, for the NNSA and for the nuclear security enterprise to receive consistent and robust funding to modernize our infrastructure as well as continue ongoing operations.” “We're looking at where we can move funding insofar as CRs will allow us to do so,” she added. “We're working very closely with OMB and the administration to see what we can do to continue our important programs to modernize the infrastructure as well as the stockpile and our workforce initiatives and our endeavors.” Gordon-Hagerty did not go into detail about specific CR-related worries, but according to an NNSA source, the agency has identified three main areas of concern under a longer CR. The first is, broadly, keeping the warhead modernization efforts on schedule. Two of those modernization programs — the B61-12 gravity bomb and W88 submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead — already face program delays thanks to an issue with a commercial part that has to be redesigned. Gordon-Hagerty said a CR should not impact that particular issue, as the funding for a solution is coming from a realignment of other warhead modernization programs. But a delay to one program caused by a CR “does affect all of the other modernization programs and all of the other work that we have ongoing throughout our nuclear security enterprise,” she said. The second major area of concern is the surplus plutonium disposition program, which is supposed to dispose of 34 metric tons of excess plutonium at a South Carolina facility. That program emerged as the successor to the controversial MOX program, and has faced opposition from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Construction on that facility could be delayed under a CR. The NNSA source said that the agency requested extra funding for the surplus plutonium disposition program through the budget anomaly process, but was not given the resources it requested. The third area of concern is a 10-year plan to develop a native plutonium pit in the United States. The NNSA has been charged with producing 80 plutonium pits a year by 2030, a target that Gordon-Hagerty acknowledged is a tight window for the agency to hit, even with stable funding. “We are again rebalancing, looking at our budget across the entire enterprise to see what it is we need to do to meet the scope and schedule of that 2030,” she said. “Am I confident we can get there? Yes. Is it fraught with — probably a bad way of saying it — land mines? It is.” Construction costs Construction featuring prominently on this list should not be a huge surprise; NNSA officials are quick to point out in public events that they are still using some buildings that date back to the Manhattan Project. According to Gordon-Hagerty, more than 50 percent of NNSA facilities are more than 40 years old, and over a third of those are about 70 years of age. The looming CR extension comes as the agency launches a number of construction projects, and a CR could lead to major delays in standing up those facilities. While that's an issue for every agency under a CR, the NNSA is concerned that the specialty construction talent needed to build those facilities may not available if a contract is frozen and then picked up again later. There could also be high-dollar costs. Responding to a lawsuit by environmental groups trying to halt the construction of the Y-12 facility in Tennessee, NNSA said a six- to 12-month delay in construction at that location could result in almost $1 billion in extra costs for taxpayers and the agency may have to lay off 1,000 construction personnel. Those numbers, first reported by the Exchange Monitor, likely have resonance with other potential delays at construction sites caused by a CR — meaning construction delays at one or more sites could quickly become costly for an agency whose facilities and construction needs have traditionally been underfunded. “It's been on schedule and on budget for the last six years. It will be finished in 2025 for approximately $6.5 billion,” Gordon-Hagerty said of the Y-12 facility. “If that funding somehow fails to materialize, then we've got over 1,000 crafts [personnel] working at the site right now. Crafts personnel are hard to come by, especially those that are qualified. So if they see a question about funding or funding gets pulled back, they're going to find positions elsewhere.”

  • Can a new Franco-German export agreement clear the air for Europe’s future fighter?

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Can a new Franco-German export agreement clear the air for Europe’s future fighter?

    By: Sebastian Sprenger COLOGNE, Germany — French and German officials celebrated the signing of a new defense export agreement last month as a watershed moment, but political and industrial mistrust remains a wild card for the Future Combat Air System program — an envisioned sixth-generation fighter jet. The export pact, which entered into force in late October with the formal exchange of government notes, is meant to streamline a contentious process that has clouded bilateral defense cooperation for some time. Namely, the agreement dictates that joint government programs, like FCAS fighter jet, be free from interference by partner nations when it comes to eventual exports. The clause is mainly aimed at Germany, where politicians and lawmakers tend to scrutinize weapons deliveries to countries with known or suspected human rights abuses more heavily than their French colleagues. The situation has grown more tense since the October 2018 death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Western officials believe was murdered by order of Saudi Arabia. Germany has since frozen all exports to the kingdom, prompting an outcry from France, where companies had to stall deliveries of equipment to Saudi Arabia in all cases where even a small number of components originated from Germany. The new agreement ensures “nobody can throw a wrench” into the other's export planning, says Matthias Wachter, chief defense analyst at the Federation of German Industries lobbying group. Having such a guarantee in writing is good news for FCAS and its ground-focused sister project, the Franco-German future main battle tank known as the Main Ground Combat System, he added. The language of the export pact is reminiscent of the 1971 Schmidt-Debré agreement, named for the German and French defense ministers at the time and panned in the left-leaning Spiegel magazine as an “embarrassing pact” when reporters found out about the then-secret understanding a year later. Fast-forward almost 50 years, and defense cooperation remains a thorny subject between the two countries destined to spearhead Europe's envisioned military autonomy in the coming decades. And there are also long-standing cultural differences that linger. There is a perception among some German lawmakers, for example, that cooperation with Paris inevitably means ceding power to French influence to the point that Germany plays only second fiddle, according to Wachter. That sentiment has led appropriators to craft a package deal for FCAS that would release funding for the next phase — building subcomponent demonstrators — only when there are assurances that Germany's tank makers, namely Rheinmetall, play a prominent role in the Main Ground Combat System effort. With armored vehicles traditionally being a strong suit for German industry, some here have privately complained about the 50-50 division of responsibility. “It's an emotional issue here in Germany,” Wachter said. Once the money begins to flow for an additional set of contracts early next year, there is a litany of questions yet to be sorted out. The fate of intellectual property rights, for example, remains unsorted, according to the analyst. In addition, as of late October, there was no agreement on Spain's industrial work share. Spain is something of a junior partner in the FCAS project, though officials in Madrid have said they expect equal treatment as a full member of the trinational project team. The Spanish government in the summer designated defense electronics company Indra as the national lead for the fighter program. The move angered Airbus, where officials were hoping to give their Spanish subsidiary a role that would satisfy Madrid's demands for industrial participation. Another potential point of contention has to do with military requirements for the future fighter. Perhaps the most prominent issue is that French officials want a carrier-capable jet, which Germany does not need.

  • BAE to bring advanced radar jamming tech to US Army aircraft

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial, C4ISR

    BAE to bring advanced radar jamming tech to US Army aircraft

    By: Jen Judson WASHINGTON — BAE Systems plans to demonstrate an interim advanced radar jamming technology next summer for helicopters and unmanned aircraft systems that is lighter and smaller than systems available now. The company issued a statement Nov. 12 announcing the U.S. Army awarded it a research and development contract to bring the technology to bear. The system “aims to improve air survivability and mission effectiveness” for aircraft “by detecting and defeating complex and unknown threats in electronic combat," the statement read. BAE will demonstrate the technology in July 2020. The technology is under development within BAE Systems' FAST Labs and combines adaptive radio frequency jamming and sensing capabilities into one system, a company statement noted. “Whereas today's electronic countermeasure systems are too bulky and heavy for most rotary-wing and UAS platforms, BAE Systems technology will combine multiple, software-programmable antennas into a digital phased array that will enable simultaneous functions, exceeding existing capabilities while reducing the size, weight, and power of current systems,” according to the British company's statement. As the Army looks to modernize its capabilities to fight across multiple domains in highly contested environments, the technology, the company said, will enable the aircraft to fly closer to threats and remain protected. Lighter and smaller systems are also crucial, as existing aircraft continues to be weighed down by additional capabilities for fighting near-peer threats. “With the continuously evolving threat landscape, it's critical to provide the next-generation of digital phased array technology to better defend our armed forces in electronic warfare,” Chris Rappa, product line director for radio frequency, electronic warfare and advanced electronics at FAST Labs, said in the statement. “Our technology will give the Army's rotary-wing aircraft and UAS a new, low SWaP [size, weight and power] system to securely and drastically increase their range of movements in future missions,” he added. BAE is planning flight tests within the next few years, FAST Labs Program Manager Ben McMahon told Defense News.

  • Airbus expects updated industry call for Germany’s Tornado replacement contest

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Airbus expects updated industry call for Germany’s Tornado replacement contest

    By: Sebastian Sprenger BERLIN — Airbus expects an updated industry solicitation for Germany's multibillion-dollar Tornado replacement program, for which the company will offer an electronic attack-capable Eurofighter. Wolfgang Gammel, the head of combat aircraft business development, said he learned about the impending update during conversations with Defence Ministry officials. A ministerial spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the official line that an announcement about the acquisition program is expected in the first quarter of 2020 and that Berlin is looking to quickly replace its aging Tornado fleet. The requirement for an electronic attack capability was absent from the original request for information when competitors placed their bids in the spring of 2018, Gammel told reporters Tuesday at the International Fighter Conference, a gathering of senior air force and industry leaders in Berlin. After Lockheed Martin and its F-35 were eliminated early this year, that left only the Eurofighter and Boeing's F-18 Growler in the race. An updated RFI presumably would reopen the competition between the remaining bidders as the acquisition process plays out anew on the question of electronic attack capabilities. Such a move would all but certainly result in a sizable delay, as German officials have been trying to be especially thorough in seeing the program through. Airbus said introducing so-called escort jammer pods to the Eurofighter fleet, to be carried under the belly or the wings of the aircraft, would require little effort because the proposed integration strategy is meant to piggyback on upgrade efforts already on the books. Complicating a pick between the Eurofighter and the F-18 is the requirement that Germany must keep a contingent of aircraft capable of carrying U.S. nuclear bombs under NATO's nuclear doctrine. That seemed to give Boeing's offering an advantage, German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed in a report last month. For its part, the F-18 is known for its ability to counter enemy air defenses, an area where Airbus now seeks to lay down its own marker.

  • Report slams Norwegian Navy for training, safety shortfalls in the run-up to frigate sinking

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Naval

    Report slams Norwegian Navy for training, safety shortfalls in the run-up to frigate sinking

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON – The bridge watch team on the stricken Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad was distracted, inadequately trained and failed to take adequate precautions while transiting close to land, according to an accident report released Friday by the Norwegian government. The watch standers on Helge Ingstad, which collided with the Maltese-flagged tanker Sola TS and subsequently sunk outside Sture Terminal near the mouth of the North Sea, were busy conducting a watch turnover and attempting to conduct training during the navigation in the channel, which it was conducting at 17-18 knots. “The Navy lacked competence requirements for instructors. The Navy had assigned the officer of the watch a role as instructor which the officer of the watch had limited competence and experience to fill,” the report reads. “Furthermore, the Navy had not given the officer of the watch assistant sufficient training and competence to operate important bridge systems while training the officer of the watch assistant trainee at the same time.” The Norwegian publication VG reported last December that the ship's captain, Capt. Preben Østheim, was asleep in his cabin during the transit through the strait near Sture, which is less than three miles across at its narrowest point. The report, which also faulted the tanker for failing to mitigate potential risks and the vessel traffic control service for inadequate monitoring, takes special aim at the Navy for a lack of qualified navigators, and for short-changing the training of junior officer, leaving bridge watch teams underqualified. “As a consequence of the clearance process, the career ladder for fleet officers in the Navy and the shortage of qualified navigators to man the frigates, officers of the watch had been granted clearance sooner, had a lower level of experience and had less time as officer of the watch than used to be the case,” the report found. “This had also resulted in inexperienced officers of the watch being assigned responsibility for training. The level of competence and experience required for the lean manning concept (LMC), was apparently not met.” The accident report shows that the bridge team confused the Sola TS for a stationary object on land, and because the watch standers were distracted with training, they were not fully engaged with monitoring the communications on the radio. “A more coordinated bridge team with more information sharing would have been more capable of detecting the tanker sooner,” the report said. “Achieving good teamwork is particularly challenging in the case of bridge teams whose members are constantly being replaced. “Furthermore, the bridge team was part of a culture characterized by great confidence in each other's skills, and this may have contributed to the perception of them being in full control of the situation and thus less vigilant and sensitive to weak signals of danger.” The report is part one of a two-part report and only encompasses the actions that led to the collision. Further findings about the actions after the collision will be released as part of a second report to be released later. ‘Not Particularly Demanding' According to the report, the transit through the body of water known as the Hjeltefjord “was not considered particularly demanding, as the fairway is open and offers a good view all around,” the report found, which likely contributed to a sense of complacence among the crew. That echoes the sentiments of the Capt. Østheim, who told VG he didn't think he needed to be on the bridge during that transit. “After 12 years at sea, I know the coast as my own pocket, so I know exactly when I need to be on the bridge and when I can rest,” Østheim told VG. There is generally little traffic through the channel and there is no traffic separation scheme. The Sola TS, which the report said was likely creating some visual confusion for Ingstad's watchstanders because of its illuminated deck lights at night, announced it was underway on the radio during the exact time that Ingstad's watchstanders were turning over, likely causing them to miss the transmission, the report reads. “At the same time as Sola TS notified of her departure from the Sture Terminal, the watch handover between the officers of the watch started on HNoMS Helge Ingstad, while the officer of the watch trainee continued to navigate the frigate,” the report reads. “During the watch handover, the officer of the watch being relieved and the relieving officer of the watch observed an object at the Sture Terminal, to starboard of the frigate's course line. The ‘object' was observed both visually and on the radar display in the form of a radar echo and AIS symbol. The two officers of the watch discussed, but did not clarify, what the ‘object' might be. “Both officers of the watch had formed the clear perception that the ‘object' was stationary near the shore and thus of no risk to the frigate's safe passage.” The situation was made even more perilous by the fact that Ingstad did not have its Automatic Identification System on, which would have notified traffic service and Sola TS of Ingstand's location. Traffic Service lost track of Ingstad because operators had their displays zoomed in too far, the report found. Collision As the Ingstad came closer to the terminal, the Sola TS, which the officer was convinced was a stationary object by the terminal, was appearing on radar to have made some distance between the pier and the water, but the officer was still not sure it wasn't a stationary object becoming more clear on the radar screen because Ingstad was closer to it. “A more experienced officer of the watch would probably have had greater capacity to pick up on weak signals of danger and be better equipped to suspect that his/her own situational awareness suffered from misconceptions,” the report read. “The officer of the watch thought, however, that the course had to be adjusted slightly to port to increase the passing distance to the ‘object'.” In the minutes before the collision, the Sola TS established contact with Ingstad's officer of the watch to get them to take an avoidance maneuver by turning to starboard. But the watch still thought that the Sola was a stationary object and that turning to starboard would run into it. “When HNoMS Helge Ingstad did not alter course, the master on Sola TS ordered ‘stop engines' and, shortly afterwards, the pilot ordered full speed astern on the engines,” the report read. “These two measures were carried out only short time before the collision, and were therefore without material effect. “When the officer of the watch on HNoMS Helge Ingstad understood that the ‘object' giving off light was moving and on direct course to collide, it was too late to avoid the collision.” ‘I don't feel shame' The decision of the captain to not be on the bridge or, at the very least, to have posted a special navigation detail with the ship so close to land is perplexing, said retired U.S. Navy cruiser skipper Capt. Rick Hoffman, a career surface warfare officer. “If I'm within five miles of land I'm going to have some kind of navigation detail posted,” which in the U.S. Navy means a team of more qualified watch standers, extra lookouts and more than likely either the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer or both, would be on the bridge overseeing the watch. It's further perplexing as to why the officer of the deck, or officer of the watch, was conducting training during a transit so close to land, Hoffman said. “[The officer of the deck should be] looking out the window and completely focused on the transit,” he said. “We would not use that as a training opportunity. The OOD and the Conning Officer has no other task.” However, Østheim told VG in December he has no regrets about his actions, though he accepts that he was overall responsible for the ship. “I don't feel any shame,” he said. “As the ship's chief, I of course have the overall responsibility for the ship and its crew. It's extremely sad that this happened. It's an accident that should not happen, but I don't feel any shame.”

  • A new future in global arms sales?

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre

    A new future in global arms sales?

    By: Jill Aitoro The last few years have seen a subtle transition in how the U.S., as the world's dominant arms exporter, markets to the world. Consider what we already know. In Europe, there's an expectation to filter more to local firms, whether through co-development or direct buys. There's also demand for greater access into U.S. programs, and for that access to be on a level playing field. And then there's South Korea, now calling for foreign contractors to engage with domestic small and medium-sized enterprises. Financial support for its companies is important, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, but so is guidance that helps identify technologies that will make those domestic companies more marketable. Call it a mentorship of sorts. Look to Middle Eastern countries and we've historically seen more financial offsets: expectations to create jobs at home to improve the economy, grow skilled labor and expand infrastructure. That's the same in northern Africa. But with oil no longer a reliable source of revenue for the region, the expectations are shifting. The Middle East wants to build a new industry, and with billions of dollars in arms sales at stake for the U.S. and Western allies, the region also knows full well that it holds some powerful cards to play. It's that question that drove the shift in Europe: “We're buying from you, so why can't you buy more from us? And by the way, politically speaking, we're pretty important.” All this to say that the emerging visions in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have some teeth. And it can, therefore, shape how the Pentagon, American defense giants and global allies for that matter handle arms sales. Consider a couple of the more recent developments. The UAE launched a government-owned company with a combined annual revenue of $5 billion known as Edge, established with a core mandate “to disrupt an antiquated military industry generally stifled by red tape,” according to its CEO. Falling under Edge are now 25 companies that before were quite small in revenue and global market share, but together hold significant buying power: NIMR, AMMROC and Abu Dhabi Ship Building to name a few. Not only do these companies become more formidable players on the global stage, but Edge suddenly carries with it significant negotiation power. Sales to the UAE could bring newfound expectations for partnerships, for stakes in programs. Then consider Saudi Arabia, which established the Saudi Arabian Military Industries, or SAMI, for essentially the same reason. It also modeled the structure off of other countries with established defense industries — Turkey, South Korea, South Africa and some Western countries, among others. SAMI's stated goal is to become one of the largest 25 defense companies in the world by 2030 and to have export account for 30 percent of its business. So what might this mean for how the U.S. works with the Middle East? Major primes have cheered the formation of these holding companies. But make no mistake: Those primes recognize that the holding companies also pose a threat to the status quo. A simple model of just selling systems into the region likely won't fly, nor will teaming on a particular competition necessarily be enough. Boeing formed a joint venture with SAMI, for example, recognizing the need to commit long term. Also consider what SAMI CEO Andreas Schwer stated to be his asks of the U.S. and allies when I interviewed him last year: “If there was a wish, we would love to get more access to top-class technologies from all the U.S. partners. There are obviously limitations, which we are suffering from. That's the one element. So be a little bit more open. And second, export in arms and weapons was driven by FMS [Foreign Military Sales] programs. In our new setup in Saudi Arabia, we will do more and more in direct commercial sales.” Let's be realistic — that could change things.

  • Leonardo invests in ‘fully electric’ Skydweller drone

    13 novembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial

    Leonardo invests in ‘fully electric’ Skydweller drone

    By: Tom Kington ROME — Leonardo will be the leading investor in a new solar-powered drone capable of carrying an 800-pound payload and which will fly for the first time in 2021, the Italian defense company said Monday. The Skydweller drone, initially developed by an American-Spanish startup involving Northrop Grumman experts, will be “the world's first fully electric unmanned aircraft capable of carrying large payloads with unlimited range and ultra-persistent endurance,” the firm said. Skydweller will also be free from the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, with Leonardo acting as the “main industrial partner,” a spokesman said, as well as prime contractor for sales to Italy, the U.K., Poland and NATO. The system will comply with European export laws and will not be subject to ITAR, allowing “the aircraft to satisfy government and commercial needs around the world,” Leonardo said. Skydweller is based on the Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft developed by Swiss engineers that flew around the world in 17 flights during 2015 and 2016. Developers see the Skydweller as pushing the limits for payloads for solar flight, while operating at medium altitudes — lower than the high altitudes for which such aircraft have usually been designed, and allowing onboard sensors and transmitters to operate at closer range to the ground. Aimed at civil and military customers, the drone is expected to offer surveillance, communications and navigation capabilities, and be interoperable with existing air bases. Development and construction of the new aircraft is to take place in Spain's Castilla-La Mancha region. Leonardo plans to create a dedicated engineering team following its entry into the program as an investor, the firm said. The first phase of the program will involve converting the manned Solar Impulse 2 into an optionally piloted vehicle with autonomous flights planned for next year.

  • 4 reasons why fuel threatens our lethality — and what we can do about it

    13 novembre 2019 | Information, Aérospatial

    4 reasons why fuel threatens our lethality — and what we can do about it

    By: Roberto Guerrero “As a service that provides global reach, global vigilance, and global power, are we thinking globally?” — Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, at the 2017 Air Force Association Symposium This is a question that keeps me up at night. Are we prepared to defend the homeland and defeat our enemies at any location around the world? If faced against a near-peer or peer competitor, will we have the necessary infrastructure and logistical supply chain to support the lethality we need on the battlefield? More than ever before, the United States depends on the Air Force to complete the mission. In 2018, the congressionally appointed National Defense Strategy Commission concluded that “regardless of where the next conflict occurs or which adversary it features, the Air Force will be at the forefront.” Every year, the Air Force conducts approximately 800,000 sorties and uses over 2 billion gallons of aviation fuel, making it the largest consumer across the Department of Defense. That's 2,200 sorties per day! The Air Force has made some relatively small investments to modernize how we plan, optimize and deliver fuel for the war fighter, but we must do more to maintain dominance in an ever-changing battlespace. Here are four reasons why. 1. Without fuel, there is no fight. We are strategically and tactically dependent on fuel for nearly all of our missions. From delivering cargo and humanitarian aid to transporting our troops and conducting airstrikes, we can't get much done without fuel. As Gen. George Patton famously proclaimed during World War II: “My men can eat their belts, but my tanks gotta have gas.” While I don't recommend eating your belt, our tanks, ships and aircraft still need a ready supply of energy — anytime, anywhere. 2. Fuel is an inherent security risk for our troops. Thirty percent of the causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan during the height of the war were caused by attacks on fuel and water convoys. Transporting fuel — whether by air, land or sea — is a necessary risk. But the more we use, the more of a risk it becomes. If we face external constraints like oil shortages, adversary attacks or interrupted access, our vulnerabilities become even greater. 3. The future fight requires modern fuel logistics. Our adversaries are developing state-of-the-art innovations and technologies to propel fuel logistics into the future, and we need to do more to stay ahead of the game. No longer can we rely on whiteboards and markers to plan complex aerial-refueling operations. We need to provide airmen with 21st century technology that is agile, adaptive and secure — at the “speed of relevance.” 4. Optimizing fuel usage builds readiness for years to come. When we use our assets more efficiently in peacetime, we build a more energy-aware culture that will better prepare our airmen for tomorrow's fight, if and when it happens. Smarter use of fuel means more funds available to invest in our airmen and weapon systems; and when we employ our assets optimally, we reduce stress on airframes and crews. So how do we address these challenges for a secure tomorrow? First, we must get better at understanding how, when and where we use aviation fuel to detect possible efficiency gaps and logistical challenges. To do this we need operational and maintenance data that is integrated, reliable and transparent. Data allows us to make informed decisions on critical issues like basing, fuel logistics, security, maintenance and technology acquisition. We also need to invest in tools and hardware that optimize our fuel demand, such as new drag-reduction technologies and next-generation efficient engines. My office has identified numerous commercially developed products that would result in increased combat capability if adopted across the Air Force. We can also invest in tools that support more streamlined mission planning. For example, agile software tools that help us efficiently plan the “last mile” of fuel delivery — aerial refueling — will provide combatant commanders with greater flexibility and maximize combat air power. Furthermore, we need to improve our understanding of energy and fuel logistics challenges as part of the modern battlespace. Through modeling and simulation, recent war games have identified a number of joint energy risks, and we now have a deeper understanding of how our energy sources, and the troops transporting them, may be jeopardized in future conflicts. However, further work must be done to increase energy supply chain resiliency and protect fuel storage and distribution networks. Right now we have small examples of fuel efficiency gains. It's time to think bigger. It's time to reach for the big efficiency gains and get big war-fighting rewards. We must move toward a more modern and innovative world to get the most of what we already have. We need to be able to compete against our near-peer adversaries — the advantage will not only be in technological advances in weaponry, but in the best, most efficient use of our technology. It is time that fuel becomes a strategic imperative. Roberto Guerrero is the deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force for operational energy.

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